Categories
Christian Living haiti

Redemption Song

Good Friday reminds me of this song and this moment for two reasons.

  1. May we sing songs of freedom this weekend. Jesus came to set captives free. May we celebrate and remember as ones freed from bondage.
  2. As we celebrate Easter this weekend, let’s remember that Jesus didn’t die just to redeem you. He died that His people might live as children of the light. (Ephesians 5:8) May we continue to have compassion on the Rudy’s of the world in the name of the one who had great compassion on us.
Categories
Church Leadership

Pastor as Vocation

Confession: I do as much or more pastoral ministry now than I did when I worked in a church.

That is no knock on my friends in full-time vocational ministry.

It is more an affirmation for the myriad of people I know who have stepped out (or been pushed out) of their ministry job.

Leaving vocational ministry in a church for the great unknown is an identity crisis. These friends are left asking themselves, “Am I still a pastor?

I went through the same thing 2 years ago. You are OK. You are still very much a pastor, even if your paycheck doesn’t come from a church.

I’m here to tell you this simple truth: When you are a pastor you are a pastor wherever you go. It’s a calling and not a vocation.

My reality

I opened this by saying that I do as much or more pastoral ministry now than I did while I worked at churches. So what does that look like?

  • Removed of the stigma of “going to talk to my pastor” I give a great amount of pastoral counsel. Instead of people coming to my office for that we meet at coffee shops, my house, and even bars. (Gasp!)
  • I love teaching at youth group. I don’t do it often enough to get into a groove… which keeps it from feeling like a grind.
  • I totally miss filling the pulpit. At the same time I’ve learned that I probably preach too much and act too little. I have a lot more time to do ministry rather than prepare a message.
  • We’ve rediscovered authentic relationships. When you work at a church your life is full of people who claim to be your friends– but it’s a positional thing. When you are a nobody in your congregation you have to develop friendships the old fashioned way. Better yet: When the positional ones come along you don’t feel obligated.
  • I’m ministering to people in my life that are a part of my neighborhood, work life, adult small group, and students in my youth group.
  • Straight talk, no B.S. (Stealing a line from a politician) That’s kind of how it feels. Free from the weirdness of people probing and constantly feeling like I’m answering every question on behalf of the church, I can just let it fly. Want to know what I think or what the Bible says? I don’t need a “church filter” anymore.

Conversely, when I was a vocational pastor I was constantly thinking to myself, “This is it? I rarely spend time with people. All I do is run programs. I want to be with people and do ministry!

Interesting how freedom from the work of running a church has lead me to doing more pastoral ministry, right?

A global perspective for the naysayers

My fellow Americans, live in anĀ ethnocentric culture. And American church culture is even more insular than American culture. Those of us who are in that culture have a very hard time seeing outside of it. So when I say things like “It’s a calling and not a vocation” most people in the church have no frame of reference. So while we’ve tied the concept of “I’m a pastor” with “I get paid to work at a church” we really get messed up when we no longer work for a church.

Two things to chew on…

Within Christianity: Outside of major Westernized countries almost no one who is a pastor does so vocationally. (Bi-vocational is the norm) In fact, the fastest spreading Christianity is spreading is absent of vocational staff and mostly without resources like buildings, Bibles, Bible study materials, etc. I’ve been pointing out the inverse relationship between church growth and church spending for months… but no one is lining up to cut their church budget/staff to see their church grow.

Other religions: Outside of the Christian church most religions are run by either volunteers or people who have taken vows of poverty, sustained only by the meager donations of people in their care. The Latter-day Saints are an excellent example of this. Very few people get paid within the Mormon church and yet it is one of the fastest growing religions in the world.

Categories
youth ministry

My Kids Aren’t Your Target Audience

Imagine the freedom of hearing this one phrase.

A parent affirming a youth pastor by saying, “My kids aren’t your target audience. Reach the lost.

What would happen if parents stepped into their role and discipled their teenage children, and at the same time affirmed the church’s youth pastor by saying, “My kids aren’t your target audience. Reach the lost.

Game changer.

G-A-M-E-C-H-A-N-G-E-R

The reason so many youth workers feel like babysitters or cruise directors is that they are regarded as such by many people in the pews. (And sadly, by their bosses and governing boards who see them as a way to attract or keep parents of teenagers.) The attitude is… “Well, we give money to the church which funds this persons salary and the program they run so we should allow the expert to pour into my kid and I’ll just step back, get the most for my money.

This makes some logical sense because its visible. But it is missing the point, missiologically and ecclesiologically.

Modern church youth ministry, as a movement, sprung out of parachurch ministries like Young Life and Youth for Christ in the 1950s-1960s who stepped up to answer the call the church would not… reach lost teenagers. It was primarily a method of evangelism. And it operated well outside of the walls of a church because the methods often used to get students interested in the Gospel freaked churchgoing adults out.

In the 1960s and 1970s churches woke up a bit and started hiring youth workers of their own. (Lots were former YFC and Young Life staff) And all of a sudden the vocation of youth pastor started to shift from something that looked like a missionary to something that looked like a pastor.

As things have morphed over the years many youth ministries focus has shifted from non-church teenagers to almost entirely church kids. Youth ministry has gone from being mostly about evangelism to mostly being about discipling church kids with an evangelism strategy which boils down to, “Bring a friend.

That’s a bad thing! And as I’ve said over and over again… we’re reaching a decreasing amount of the population with this strategy. Some try to dismiss me by claiming I’m just deconstructing. I’m not deconstructing, I’m calling the church to recognize her strategic failure and change!

Personal Example

I’ve always known this to be true. (That my churches job wasn’t to reach my kids, but to reach the lost.) But I suppose economic realities and race make it obvious enough for my dense mind to notice now that we go to a mission-styled church.

I don’t want my church reaching my kids. If I sit in on my churches kids ministry program and it is targeted at my kids I know something is wrong. Why? We’re a mission church in a neighborhood where 75% of the people don’t speak English in their home and even more are not from the U.S.A..

My kids aren’t the reason my staff raises support! I know this and I celebrate it. I’m pleased that my tithe doesn’t help create a ministry paradigm designed to disciple my kids. Why? That’s my job!

Their job is to reach the neighborhood!

Why is acknowledging this important?

  1. It changes my attitude from entitlement to supporting the mission of the church.
  2. It clarifies expectations.

Your Role as Parents

If you are like me, a Christian parent, your role is vital. Deuteronomy 6 is abundantly clear. A life with Jesus isn’t reserved for the temple. You’re to talk about God in all that you do, everywhere you go, and in your own home. You are to impress on your children that your faith is real. If you want your kids to believe in God it is up to you. If you leave it to your church to do you have failed as a parent. (If your church is telling you it is their job tell them they are wrong, they need to hear it.)

Your tithe is an offering to God not a ticket to entitlement to church programs. While it is our role to oversee and make sure that the church is not misappropriating funds– It is hardly an offering to God if it has strings attached to it which stipulate that the church will create programs to entertain and disciple your children.

Imagine

Imagine the freedom it would create to your church staff if you uttered this simple phrase, “My kids aren’t your target audience. Reach the lost.

Go ahead, try it.